NBA power rankings: 76ers in the contenders circle

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

We have entered the stretch run of the 2022-23 NBA regular season. Tanking teams are starting to pull the plug on key players and contenders are weighing the importance of seeding against the benefits of rest.

Of course, the Philadelphia 76ers fall in the latter category. With nine games left on the schedule, Doc Rivers’ squad is third in the East — two games behind Boston in the loss column and four games behind first-place Milwaukee.

While hopes soared during the Sixers’ recent eight-game win streak, a three-loss week has made the path to the 1-seed almost impossible. Boston has become much harder to catch too — especially if Harden and Embiid are going to rest their respective injuries at any point over the next nine games.

That said, Philadelphia has definitely proved its mettle over the last month of action. With Embiid playing MVP basketball, Harden ascending toward a potential All-NBA nomination, and Tyrese Maxey back in his groove, one couldn’t be blamed for possessing extreme optimism in the historically unreliable Sixers.

Just about every major news outlet seems to agree.

Philadelphia 76ers soaring in NBA power rankings

The Sixers are almost universally top-5 in NBA power rankings at this point. In fact, any conversation about “title favorites” probably has to start with the Eastern Conference. Three of the four best records in the league belong to the East, with only Denver to represent the West.

Here is where the Sixers stand in the most recent power rankings from around the web.

If there was any doubt about Philadelphia’s standing in the NBA hierarchy, the past month or so has put them to rest. The Sixers may not be favorites in the East, but it’s clear they can hang with anyone. The path to a championship will be difficult, but it always is. Joel Embiid and James Harden form arguably the best one-two punch in basketball; in fact, the Sixers have been the league’s most potent offense since Harden’s return from injury in mid-December.

There are two obvious caveats tied to the power rankings. One, they hold zero weight in the NBA standings and are often a reflection of regular season prowess, not postseason expectations. Two, the Sixers just lost two big games on the road. Two difficult matchups short their second-best player, but two big games nonetheless. Future iterations could seem them falling behind the likes of Boston or Denver again.

No matter how you slice it, however, the Sixers are legitimate contenders. This is the best team of the Embiid era on paper. From Embiid’s career-best numbers, to the supporting star power of Harden and Maxey, to the roster’s underrated defensive depth: this is a team that can go all the way.

Next. Will 76ers' James Harden make All-NBA team?. dark